Vaping and its effects on spinal health

For years, the use of electronic vaping devices or e-cigarettes has been recommended for people to “kick the habit” of…

For years, the use of electronic vaping devices or e-cigarettes has been recommended for people to “break the habit” of traditional cigarette smoking. The e-cigarette was created in 2003 by a Chinese pharmacist, to serve as an alternative to conventional smoking.

Certainly, devices that electronically introduce nicotine into the body may contain fewer chemicals than inhaled smoke from burnt tobacco products. However, these devices do not contain any chemicals and the health effects of those they do contain can be debilitating, including to the spine.

[READ: Ways to Improve Spine Health]

Side effects on spine health

To date, research on the adverse health effects of e-cigarettes and vaping devices is not as voluminous as what is available on smoking. To be fair to scientific researchers, such devices have been known to the public for less than 20 years. While that may seem like a long time, it’s not when it comes to long-term research studies.

Additionally, many liquids found in e-smoking devices are not tested for toxicity in the same way as those in cigarettes. However, although limited, the research we do have is compelling enough to encourage everyone to walk away from any and all nicotine delivery devices.

A 2020 study that reviewed the available narrative literature on the effects of vaping on intervertebral disc health, bone health, and spinal fusion found that exposure to carcinogens from e-cigarettes is associated with increased oxidative stress and inflammation in the body. Oxidative stress and inflammation negatively impact bone health by altering osteoblast proliferation and differentiation. Osteoblasts are the cells of the body necessary for the synthesis and mineralization of bone. In other words, they are the building blocks of strong, healthy bones, including those in the spine.

Additionally, nicotine – found in traditional cigarettes and e-cigarettes – has long been known to constrict blood vessels. The vertebral discs in the spine already function with a small blood supply. So when this supply is further reduced, spinal disc degeneration can follow.

[READ: Tips for Managing Back Pain.]

Adults, adolescents and children are affected

Adults aren’t the only ones who face the spinal health risks associated with vaping. With the addition of fruit and candy flavors to vaping and e-cigarette products, the popularity of these devices among teens in the United States has increased dramatically. The Food and Drug Administration, through its latest National Youth Smoking Survey, indicates that a disturbing number of high school and college students are currently using tobacco products. Among these products, the use of e-cigarettes is “alarming”.

An additional and particular concern with vaping products is the highly addictive and easy-to-use options readily available to young people. According to the survey, disposable e-cigarettes have exploded in the United States over the past few years. These devices are cheap and easy to dispose of after use.

Because there is not yet as much publicly discussed research on the harmful effects of e-cigarette use as there is on the use of traditional cigarettes and tobacco products, many young people (and adults, in fact ) see these devices as “not as bad” for them as conventional smoking. For young people and adolescents, this is a crucial time in life for healthy bone development. adult skeletal mass that a person will possess throughout their lifetime is developed during adolescence.

Strong, healthy bones are key to avoiding diseases like osteoporosis and fractures later in life. If we know that the toxicity of electronic cigarettes and vaping products has adverse effects on our bones and our health in general, we should be alarmed for our young people. Even with the scant evidence we currently have, the risk of long-term adverse spinal health effects from vaping exists.

[READ: What Is Nicotine Replacement Therapy?]

Benefits of quitting smoking

I have good news. You’ve probably heard smokers say that their lung tissue can begin to regenerate and repair itself almost immediately when a person decides to quit. The same can be true for the spine. When the onslaught of toxic chemicals on the body is stopped, spinal discs can begin to restore and regenerate. But it’s essential to give them the best chance to fight back by quitting for good.

If you are a current smoker, quit, period. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to successfully quit smoking. There are many products and programs on the market today that can help you. Your spine and your health deserve this effort.

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